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Sunday, 21 December 2008

Cold and wet and windy - DEO GRATIAS

'Snowman' - painted by Sammy, from the Congo, who is in his 11th year of a sentence of Life Imprisonment in Zambia.

To be absolutely honest, this last week has been a time of mixed fortune. The weather has been intermittently wild with winds gusting around 75 mph, with torrential rain, which meant that the house was cold in spite of the central heating and an open fire in the lounge, and even with two sweaters I found it impossible to keep warm. We have a problem when the wind blows fiercely from the S.E. or S.W., as it did most of the time, accompanied by heavy rain, as the water finds its way through the stone walls, ending up dripping persistently onto the window sills of the two large front windows, necessitating the strategic siting of numerous large plastic bowls (including kitchenware), to catch the drips and prevent water damage, plus the spread of several large old towels and sheets over the window sills and on the adjoining carpet! To some extent I blame myself for this sad state of affairs, in as much as I was responsible for removing the rendering from the front of the house two years ago - very necessary as the old rendering was hollow and potentially dangerous, also it was not rain-proof and was ugly, particularly emphasised by the missing rendering from each end of the house which fell off virtually of its own accord, apparently as a result of poor workmanship, some years before we moved in. Up to now these end walls have been no problem with no sign of any damp, but it is the front of the house that is the problem. As far as re-rendering is concerned, both the front and two end walls will have to be done, which involves considerable cost. I also quite like the look of the bare stonework, in fact I prefer it to a rendered finish, and I half-hoped that somehow the rain would not actually infiltrate, and that I could get away with perhaps a modest amount of re-pointing. The experience of the last few days has rather destroyed this myth, and I have decided that something must be done as soon as possible, probably in the spring. The administrative wheels are already in motion, and all being well the days of extraneous buckets and towels are numbered!

Having said that, I must also say that if this is all I have to really worry about, then I am very fortunate. We don’t have earthquakes or volcanoes, typhoons or tornados, devastating floods or droughts, forest or prairie fires, the list of natural disasters is endless, so what have I got to complain about? The answer is nothing at all. Indeed I thank God for all my blessings in life, my wife and family, my friends, my health and material blessings, and above all for my Catholic faith which, through God's goodness, illumines our way in this life and gives us holy hope for the next. We are very fortunate to have here the priests of the ‘Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer’ (F.SS.R), to provide our spiritual needs. Under the Superior General, Fr Michael Mary, the F.SS.R. have recently been reconciled with Rome, having been out of favour for the last 25 years or so as a result of their adherence to the Latin Mass, traditional liturgy, and traditional teaching of the Church, much of which had been relegated to the back-burner since Vatican 2 (1965). There are now recognisable signs and real evidence that the modernist and liberal thinkers have had their day, and that their time is fast running out. The Holy Father, initially single-handed, condemned in particular,the liturgical abuses and malaise of the modern Church, endorsing by word and deed the value and need for a return to Catholic orthodoxy, a view fast gaining favour at all levels of the hierarchy. With the ‘Motu Proprio’(2007), the Holy Father invited, indeed pleaded with, all those ‘out of favour’ traditionalist priests and religious to reconcile fully with Rome, and thus add their considerable numerical and spiritual support to the Church in its mission of Catholic renewal and evangelisation. The F.SS.R responded positively to this invitation of the Holy Father, a response which in their particular circumstances, demanded great faith, real courage, and total loyalty to the See of Peter. Up to that time, the F.SS.R.(also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists) had maintained a close working relationship with the Society of St Pius Xth (SSPX) and were responsible for the production and distribution worldwide of the traditional newspaper ‘Catholic’. So far the SSPX has not reconciled with Rome, and indeed certain members have publicly ridiculed Fr Michael and his community for doing so. Many accusations, conjectures and baseless suppositions,have been made; the sale of the ‘Catholic’ to traditional SSPX congregations in the UK, USA, S.Africa, India, and Asia, has been banned, with significant financial implications for the F.SS.R. You may well ask what the reasons are for this public condemnation and punishment. Surely the acknowledgement of, and practical recognition of, the Holy Father as Head of the Church on earth, is not a crime. Indeed this acknowledgement is obligatory for all Catholics. Only one priest from the Community, Fr Nicholas, dissented from the reconciliation with Rome, and he has chosen to remain on Stronsay, living in a rented house with his mother. The small, but previously close Catholic community on Stronsay has been divided, with some remaining true to, and supporting Fr Michael and the F.SS.R., and others allying themselves to Fr Nicholas. It has to be asked whether such division was necessary, for it certainly is not good. With the ‘Motu Proprio’(2007) of Pope Benedict XVIth, we - the supporters of Fr Michael, have and will continue to have the traditional Latin Mass every day in Our Lady’s Chapel. We believe the same traditional articles of faith that we have always believed, we receive the same traditional spiritual instruction that we have always received, and our traditional priests are in full unity with Rome and the Vicar of Christ. Our priests have full faculties for hearing confessions, which does not apply to Fr Nicholas, and we have the opportunity for daily Communion. We have a resident priest from the F.SS.R monastery staying on Stronsay itself, currently it is Fr Michael, and we have ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ with the Blessed Sacrament, open for visits during the day. What more can we ask, and how grateful we are. Sadly our 'separated brethren' do not share our joy. Personal conviction, misunderstanding or ignorance, pressure and influence from others, individually or collectively have combined to alienate those Catholics holding rigidly to the SSPX line, and of course Fr Nicholas is in touch with and has the support of the SSPX, who by their words and deeds, seem intent on trying to destroy all that Fr Michael and the F.SS.R community represent. This will never happen, and hopefully time and awareness will combine to soon dispel existing doubts and fears, so that our community may once again be united. On a much brighter note, we are all looking forward to seeing again the five seminarians of the F.SS.R community who are returning to Papa Stronsay tomorrow for the Christmas vacation, from the FSSP Seminary in Nebraska, USA, where they have been since September. They are truly inspiring young men, and a great credit to the F.SS.R , and we pray that God will bless and Our Lady protect them. Every Christmas here on Stronsay, the monks build a substantial ‘weather-proof’ and ‘wind-resistant’ Crib outside ‘Our Lady’s Chapel’ at the end of the quay. This is under construction at the moment, and I’m sure that as usual, it will be rather special! I will try to get a photograph when completed, and post it on this site. To digress somewhat, we constantly hear deeply depressing news regarding the public comments and behaviour of prominent ostensibly ‘Catholic’ lay figures, who scandalise many souls by their disregard for Church teachings. We also hear of prelates who seem to enjoy showing contempt for the person and unique status of the Holy Father, by ignoring his directions or twisting his words. I always remember as a young man attending a ‘Retreat’ at school given by that wonderful Jesuit priest, Fr Bernard Bassett. I cannot pretend to remember everything he said, it was more than 55 years ago, but one thing I do remember was his description of an organisation, eg.the Church, which he likened to a barrel of apples containing both good and bad fruit, and that ‘because some apples in the barrel are rotten you do not discard the rest, and the barrel of apples still remains - a barrel of apples.’ Thus the Church has bad members, but that does not mean that all members are bad, indeed many are excellent, neither does it detract from the eternal truths held and taught by the Church on the authority of Christ. Hence we will think no more of ‘rotten apples', and instead return our thoughts to the good and generous F.SS.R seminarians of Papa Stronsay, and indeed seminarians everywhere, who give us real joy and hope for the spiritual well-being of the Church militant, both now and for the future. In spite of scandals, disappointments and rejection by the world and even by friends, we should remember Our Lord's words and not be afraid, placing all our hope and trust in Christ, who promised that He would be with His Church for all time, even unto the consummation of the world. Our Lady, Mother of Christ and Help of Christians, pray for us.

Wishing all those who have laboured thus far, a very happy Christmas and New Year. Finally in this Season of Christmas, a time of Christian joy and peace to men of goodwill, I ask pardon for any hurt, injustice, or lack of charity, that I may have been guilty of, in any post or comment at any time. I can be contacted by email on '' should you so wish. Thank you. Brian Crowe.


Confiteor said...


Thank you for this heartfelt post. You are very blessed to have Fr. Michael, Fr. Anthony, and the F.SS.R. Brothers with you there on Stronsay. Please pray for me in my Novus Ordo exile here in the USA. The "spirit of Vatican II" chokes my soul and often makes me sympathetic toward the hard-line stance of the SSPX, yet I detest their treatment of Fr. Michael. Let us pray that the F.SS.R. and SSPX will someday join forces to fully rout the liberals and modernists -- although we must also love and pray for those "enemies of the Church" (who know not what they do), as Christ died for them, too.

I have just posted a "Christmas card" for the Pro Papa League on the Flagship. I hope that you enjoy it. God bless!

David / Confiteor

umblepie said...

Thank you David (Confiteor) for your comment. That you have only the NO Mass is very hard for you, is this because your Bishop is unhelpful in his response to the Motu Proprio, or for some other reason? We pray that you will soon have available the traditional Mass, as we also pray for your other intentions. Many thanks for the Christmas card, have sent short acknowledgement on Pro Papa League site. Best wishes. Brian

Confiteor said...

Hi Brian,

Aside from the FSSP and SSPX (both a significant driving distance from where we live), the TLM is still not available in our area. There is also the matter of resistance at home; this is the greater obstacle. I cannot force my family to attend the TLM against their will and I'm fearful of causing a split.

Thank you for the kind acknowledgment on the Flagship, and for your continued prayers. God bless you!


Anonymous said...

Fr. Alphonsus Maria also did not go along with deal, even though he's been in the U.S. he still counted as a Redemptorist too.

umblepie said...

Anonymous, Thank you for your comment. Fr Alphonsus has been away from Papa Stronsay for 3/4 years for reasons best known to himself, but it certainly had nothing at all to do with the current situation. During that time I suspect that he has had little, if anything to do with the Community, to the extent that he is no longer considered part of that Community. I also understand that he has been working with the SSPX in the USA for some considerable time, so it is not surprising that he has chosen to stay with them in this matter. We pray that with very recent developments, ie. lifting of the excommunications on the four SSPX Bishops, that full reconciliation with Rome will follow as soon as possible, then all priests can work together in the unity of the Church, for the glory of God.